mike davies october 2012

Playing the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath last year to mark the 10th anniversary of her debut album, CARINA ROUND returned to her spiritual home again at the start of the month as part of a lengthy international Pledge funded tour to promote her latest, Tigermending which (reviewed here back in May) has finally been released in the UK.

carina 2

In a stunning dress designed and made by her mother and backed by her ferociously tight band, she was on molten form, schizophrenically siren one moment and banshee the next, confirming her as two of the finest female rock voices on the planet as she bent notes into impossible shapes while unleashing primal forces from her guitar. Opening with Set Fire and closing with the Kings Heath referencing You & Me, the set list she featured all but four of the tracks (sadly no The Secret Of Drowning or You Will Be Loved), punctuated by searing versions of Into My Blood and Elegy from The Disconnection, Downslow off Slow Motion Addict, Things You Should Know’s For Everything A Reason and a stunning cover of Prince’s I Would Die For You. Despite a bit of a balls-up, a solo acoustic encore of the magnificent Backseat, also from Things…., spinetingleingly had the packed crowd taking up its anthemic ‘we were born into the wrong time’ chorus, not bad for a song only ever available on a digital download EP. Can someone please book her as support for a major arena date so she can blow the walls down at the LG Arena too.

the lights

Recently signed to Birdman Records, Wolverhampton’s THE LIGHTS made their new label debut back in April but somehow, despite the local connection, information and review copy never filtered through from the publicity machine. So, a belated parcel of praise then for the infectious country-pop , hood down highway cruising Days Don’t Get Me Far Enough Away which once again showcases their sparkling way with a catchy melody, playful sensibilities and the fine vocals of Liz Shiels. They should be considerably more successful than they are, but at least the word continues to build.


Congratulations to Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish who, as MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, recently won Americana Music Artist of The Year at the British Country Music Awards for their debut album How Do You Plead? An American edition is now also available in a different sleeve featuring a demo version of By A Thread and their version of George Harrison’s It’s All Too Much as well as a redesigned lyrics booklet.

gary o dea

Off the radar for far too long, Gary O’Dea’s Cosmic Souls sees the Tipton singer-songwriter working with a new band (which includes veteran local muso Ian Rushbury on bass and mandolin) , adding extra warmth to his cocktail of blues, country, soul and rock n' roll. Their first release is Looking Forward By Thinking Back, a collection of reworked past material such as Slim Chance styled mandolin good time shuffle Sittin’ On Your Fence, the Van Morrison-like Way Back Home and, conjuring Martin Stephenson while referencing The Clash, My Sweet Rita. This will be followed next year by Fly, a solo album of hitherto unrecorded songs.


If you overlook Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley’s six year hiatus as Hard Rain, this is MAGNUM’s 40th anniversary, one marked by the release of their 18th album, On The Thirteenth Day (Steamhammer), or 13th depending on if it’s the front or back cover. At this stage of the game they’re not about to try reinventing the wheel, so you’ll know to expect Clarkin’s big guitar riffs, huge pomp rock melodies, massive chorus hooks, Catley’s gravel throat vocals and Mark Stanway’s sweeping keyboards. Naturally there’ll always be an epic number, and this time round it comes right at the star with the seven minute All The Dreamers which builds from a quiet intro into a soaring declaration that “we’re all here to rock and roll.” Blood Red Laughter keeps the riffage driving before cello and synth brass introduces Didn’t Like You Anyway’s marching, classically influenced swagger. The title cut comes early, building from an orchestral intro into a percussion driven mid-tempo rocker that sounds a little like Survivor before Catley lifts his gargling warble to the rafters for the autobiographically anthemic So Let it Rain.

Piston hammering raspy guitar notes and staccato percussion underpin Dance Of The Black Tattoo, the heaviest and most metal of the tracks, giving way to the sweeping socio-economic state of the nation themed chorus punchy anthemic Shadow Town.

There’s always a big pomp rock ballad somewhere on a Magnum album, and this one comes with the stately, piano backed Putting Things In Place, and while it’s not up there with Les Morts Dansant (but, then, what is!), it’s still pretty damn fine.

After this brief respite, it’s back to the hard rock face with Broken Promises and the pounding prog majesty of See How They Fall before closing out on the anthemic defiant note of From Within. The band arguably reached the peak of their powers with 1985’s On A Storyteller’s Night. And as this confirms, they’ve not lost ground since.


Excellent news that GERRY COLVIN has finally completed his jazz album, Jazz Tales Of Country Folk. With superb piano accompaniment by Elliott Rooney, Jerome Davies on bass and Natasha Buxton on drums, it’s not yet got a label or distribution deal (but you can buy it from http://recordingathome.co.uk/colvinquarmby.co.uk/Shop.php), however it should certainly attract interest, and not only from the Colvin Quarmby fans. I’ll go into more detail next time, but those who remember Gerry’s original band, The Man Upstairs, will know he’s no stranger to jazz and that, while such influences as Sinatra and Jack Jones may be obvious (opening track Blind is also melodically reminiscent of The Shadow Of Your Smile), his approach to the genre, certainly lyrically, is definitely from leftfield.

Hence numbers about murdering flowers, a stalker’s love song, a private detective having an affair with the wife he’s been paid to keep an eye on and even one, The Ninth Song, from the perspective of a song not quite at the bottom of a Top 10 list. And how many albums – jazz or otherwise - do you know that namecheck Show of Hands members Steve Knightley and Phil Beer or Amanda Pays!


Released at the end of the month, following 2009’s underachieving deal-losing sophomore album Jewellery Quarter, THE TWANG look to re-establish themselves with the lyrically reflective 10:20. The first recordings to feature new drummer Ash Sheenan after Matty Clinton was fired for stealing equipment from the studio, like last year’s Guapa EP, it’s released on their own Jump The Cut label, its title coming from a note a neighbor stuck to their studio door complaining about the noise.

Two cuts are duplicated from the EP, the slow/quiet verse, fast/loud chorus title track with bassist Jon Watkin on vocals and heartfelt love song Whoa Man while swirly guitars number Paradise with Here Comes The Sun borrowing was previously a free download and the 2011 riots-inspired call to arms We’re A Crowd was released as a taster single earlier this year. The remaining eight numbers are all new, albeit opener Neptune is just a 40 second instrumental that leads into Mainline, an angry swaggering indictment of the country’s current economic state on which they clearly fancy themselves as The Specials with less ska and more carnival.

the twang

Sheehan’s drum pattern sets the scene for the choppy tumbling Take This On with its ringing guitar chords and Phil Etheridge almost rapping the lyrics, then broken romance Last Laugh kicks in a (rather belated) summery indie pop vibe with a crowd singalong chorus before Beer Wine & Sunshine (with a rather messy intro that sounds like a synthesized out of tune harmonica) song for an alcoholic hedonist with its line ‘you smell so bad your skin peels away’.

Vaguely continuing the country touches of the EP’s February Snow, It Ain’t You shuffles along on brushed percussion and a chugging train rhythm with closing track, the wistful broken relationship memories of Stranger’s sad but hopeful languid sway, Etheridge’s vocals echoey behind a foggy gauze.

Unusually, they’ve also included a cover version with their somewhat more muscular - almost psych surf pop with its ooohing backing vocals - take on Durutti Column’s obscure lost classic Tomorrow.

This is the sound of definitely a more musically mature band looking to make an album they are proud of rather than churn out some hit singles. Will it sell? Probably not, but those who’ve stuck with them will certainly feel their faith rewarded.http://monstersuniversity.com/edu/campus.html

roots-and-branches.com 2013